Chilly-Dawg: Tapping the Growing Gourmet Pet Food Market 2

| April 18, 2005 | 1 Comment

Marketing the Business

Becky’s Chilly Dawg is one of the many businesses getting into the specialty pet food industry in the United States. The pet food industry is one of the few food industries that are undergoing sustained growth. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, “American pets are sitting in the lap of luxury as U.S. pet owners spend more on their pets than they spend on candy or even toys.” In 2005, Americans’ spending on pets is projected to be about $14.5 billion for food alone. The humanization of pets, where pets are increasingly seen as family members, not animals, is one factor stimulating the demand for pet food.

Becky realizes the level of competition in the pet gourmet food sector, but is undaunted. She said, “The gourmet dog treat market is extremely competitive and very extensive. There is steady stream of new products for dogs’ daily whether it be treats, foods, leashes, or other products. In a saturated market and as the pet industry flourishes at such a tremendous pace, people try to find ways to distinguish their products from others that may be similar. I fill a segment of the market that hasn’t been explored. Chilly Dawg frozen treats are very healthy and nutritious, they are fun, distinctive and original and they appeal to a broad audience of dog owners.”

Despite (and because of) the novelty of her products, market reaction has been quite positive. Becky said, “Having a distinctive product such as Chilly Dawg tends to garner interest quickly. People are typically surprised and intrigued by the product. They ask questions and want to learn more.”

However, marketing has been a challenge. Given her limited resources, she has to adopt guerrilla-marketing strategies to get her product out there. She recalled, “I began by taking small batches of treats in a cooler to parks and farmer’s markets where owners brought their dogs, handing out flyers, selling the treats, and talking to people. I participated in several fundraising events, which allowed further exposure and also a chance for Chilly Dawg to give back to the pet community. I was also researching specialty pet shops for those with freezers, visiting the shops with the treats, and speaking to the owners and managers.”

An important component of her marketing strategy is educating retail storeowners the proper handling and storage of her products. She said, “A major concern for my business is the fact that my treats are frozen. They cannot be bagged to sit on a shelf in a shop. Teaching people about my treats and having people know where to find them is a difficulty I continuously work to overcome.”

“As my business not large, marketing it is extremely important. I have been submitting my web site address to other pet related sites, sending press releases to news organizations, handing out flyers that I created, providing potential retailers with informational packets, mailing post cards, and generally speaking to anyone and everyone. Retailers who carry my product typically display in-store signage. I have contacted organizations about fundraising opportunities, and am always looking for events to participate in.”

Managing the Business From Home

Becky presently runs the business from her home. “One of the major challenges of conducting business from home,” Becky said, “is storage for supplies and ingredients. Most often, residences are not configured to support business start ups or their continued growth. I also live on the third floor, which is tough when I have to carry a 50-pound bag upstairs. General matters such as sending or receiving deliveries or not having certain kinds of office equipment can slow things down a bit. If one isn’t careful, home life and work life can easily intertwine into one.”

“One of the best benefits of having Chilly Dawg in my home is that I can work any hour of the day without having to travel to a separate location. Throughout the course of a day, I can work on Chilly Dawg and several other projects while spending time with Hailey. Another great benefit is that I am saving on the cost of maintaining a home and a business location.”

Becky, however, is thankful to her family for supporting her vision and her business. In fact, her family performs a number of day-to-day operational tasks for her business. Becky said, “Currently I do not have any staff employees or assistants. Chilly Dawg is really a family venture: my mother helps with sales, marketing, promotion, and some deliveries; my brother maintains my web site for me; my father is one of my biggest supporters; Hailey is quality control. Without their help and encouragement, running Chilly Dawg would be tough for one person.”

Next Steps

As Becky has discovered, the road to entrepreneurship is long and hard. She said, “I did encounter many bumps in the road as I progressed, and still do, from packaging to making the treats to freezing and delivery. I found that further research, more planning, and a lot of testing was the way to success. This is what takes the most time but is so important. There will always be difficulties so a methodical approach to solving them is absolutely necessary.”

This spring, she plans to put in writing her business plan to give her a clearer direction for growing her business. Becky mentioned, “For this year, I hope to expand further into the Chicago area market and reach into other markets as well. I love Chilly Dawg, love to see happy dogs eating their frozen treats, and making people happy with something I’ve created. I hope I can continue to grow, give back to the pet community, and share the fun.”

As for her advice to other start-up entrepreneurs like her: “I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research and to be persistent. Don’t let anyone tell you no or that you can’t do something that you believe in. The success of a new business lies solely with the person who begins it and it will not grow or maintain itself. A new business takes a lot of work and can be very frustrating; an entrepreneur cannot be faint of heart or quick to give up. Going headlong into a business without any clear idea of where you want to be or what you want to accomplish will be detrimental in the end. One really needs to understand their targeted market for their goods or services in order to succeed. Thoroughly highlight anything and everything that will distinguish you from other products on the market, and a disadvantage is actually a benefit in disguise.”

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  1. lessons for piano says:

    This is interesting, please post more often about Chilly-Dawg: Tapping the Growing Gourmet Pet Food Market 2 | Women Home Business: Small Business Success Stories!

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